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NordVPN review

Everything you need to know about NordVPN in one place

NordVPN
(Image: © NordVPN)

Our Verdict

NordVPN's Netflix-unblocking, P2P-optimized servers, malware blocking and Bitcoin support make for an appealing service. We had some issues unblocking other services and the app interfaces aren't the best, but overall this is a quality VPN with plenty to offer all levels of user.

For

  • Privacy audit of no-logging claims
  • Unblocks Netflix
  • Effective kill switch
  • Speedy live chat support

Against

  • Basic browser extensions
  • Some client UI issues
  • Fractionally above-average prices

So you want to know everything about NordVPN, including how good – and fast – a VPN provider it is, as well as all the latest news on the service? Well, you’ve come to the right place, because this article comprises of an extensive review of NordVPN complete with a full range of performance tests, combined with a roundup of news pertaining to the service, plus an extensive FAQ that addresses the most commonly asked questions about this VPN.

But first, let's kick off with a quick TL:DR summary of the review for those who don't want the in-depth stuff, and just want to know whether NordVPN is worth buying, and how it compares to rival VPNs, in a nutshell.

NordVPN: 1-minute review

NordVPN's torrent support is a definite strong point, and there's as much to like on the privacy front too, with plenty of smart features to help keep you safe and anonymous online. Of course, you may recall that NordVPN's security reputation has been tarnished in the past by a hacking incident back in 2018, but the company has learned a lot of lessons from that, and implemented a number of commendable measures and audits since (scrutiny that not many other VPNs put themselves under, it should be noted).

Performance levels are good, and this is one of the faster VPNs we've ever reviewed, and for Netflix (or other streaming content) unblocking, it got us into what we needed (although sometimes only via the VPN's browser extension).

NordVPN's mobile apps are better than you'll find with most VPN providers, and its Windows client is generally pretty good – while the latter does have some odd quirks, there’s nothing major, and it's quite user-friendly overall. Speaking of which, there are a lot of quality tutorials to help you get set up with the VPN, and great customer support, which is all good for the less tech-savvy folks out there, should they run into trouble somehow.

An expansive network of servers rounds all this off nicely, and NordVPN's commendable no-strings-attached 30-day money-back guarantee is worth a mention. If you aren't happy, you can get your money back in the first month with no hassles.

You can think of NordVPN as a high-quality jack-of-all-trades VPN. It does everything to a good standard, and while some rivals may offer better performance in specific departments, if you want everything doing well – and a consistent service above all – NordVPN won't steer you wrong.

Keen to find out more about NordVPN? Then read on to learn every detail you could ever want to know...

NordVPN: latest news and updates

Here's a rundown of the latest changes and additions since we last updated our NordVPN review, which we will update monthly going forward.

  • May 2020: Change to server coverage: NordVPN now has 5,441 servers in 59 countries. Note that the server number decreased from the previous month, because as NordVPN explains, "due to the coronavirus pandemic and global lockdowns, we saw a huge spike in usage (especially in Italy), so we added more servers, [but] now the situation is coming back to normal."
  • April 2020: Change to server coverage: NordVPN has 5,875 servers in 59 countries (April 2020)

NordVPN: our full NordVPN review

Panama-registered NordVPN is a hugely popular VPN provider with more than 12 million customers around the globe. The company sells itself on features, and there's a lot to like.

How many servers does NordVPN have?
The NordVPN network has 5,441 servers in 80 locations across 59 countries.

What platforms does NordVPN have apps for?
You get Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux and Android TV apps, and NordVPN also offers tutorials to set up the service on many more devices. 

How many devices can you use with NordVPN?
NordVPN boasts support for six simultaneous connections, meaning you can use up to six devices; and that's probably enough for you to use all your devices at once.

What features do you get with NordVPN?
NordVPN offers all the technical features you'd expect, including OpenVPN support for strong encryption and high performance, a kill switch and DNS leak protection to keep your identity safe.

Not-so-common extras include double data encryption and Onion support for extra security, and ad, malware and phishing protection via NordVPN's CyberSec technology. P2P support is a major plus, and a clear no logging policy and NordVPN's Panama registration give above-average reassurance that your internet activities won't be visible to anyone else.

NordVPN's NordLynx, a high-speed protocol based on WireGuard technology, is now available on Linux and iOS. That's good news, but it only has limited value right now, as only a few servers support the protocol and your nearest server may be a country or two away. The company says its developers are working on rolling out support for the feature across the full network and client range, but there's no ETA just yet.

An unusual new feature is the ability to close the VPN connection, and automatically reconnect after a few minutes. If you've ever manually disconnected from a VPN to perform some local task, then forgot to reconnect, you'll appreciate how useful that could be.

If you're intimidated by this feature overload, or just run into some unexpected problems, NordVPN's 24/7 support is on hand to point you in the right direction, via email or live chat.

NordVPN's prices are fair, and if you're not quite convinced that this is the VPN for you, a 30-day money-back guarantee gives you a risk-free route to sampling the service for yourself.

Got any further questions about the basics of NordVPN? Then see our FAQ at the end of this article.

NordVPN Payment methods

NordVPN supports a wide variety of payment methods including cryptocurrencies (Image credit: NordVPN)

What are NordVPN's plans, and how much do they cost?

NordVPN has a clear and simple pricing structure with four straightforward plans - a more in-depth and up to the minute explanation an be found at our dedicated NordVPN price and deals article.

You can opt to pay $11.95 a month with the monthly plan, falling to an effective $6.99 a month (a chunky 41% discount) if you pay for a year upfront.

NordVPN's two-year plan is now $4.99, up from $3.99 the last time we reviewed the service, while the three-year plan has increased from $2.99 to $3.49.

Is NordVPN good value for money?
On the face of it, yes, but it's true that bargain hunters can find significantly better deals than NordVPN elsewhere. Private Internet Access' annual plan costs just $3.33 a month, for instance, while Surfshark's two-year plan is an effective $1.99.

Still, NordVPN is far from the most expensive VPN around, and we think it's fairly priced for what you get.

What methods can you use to pay for NordVPN?
There are plenty of payment options provided by NordVPN, with support for cards, PayPal, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies (via CoinPayments), and assorted other systems (AmazonPay, UnionPay, SOFORT Banking and more).

Does NordVPN have a free trial?
Although NordVPN claims to have a 'risk-free VPN trial', that's not really true. You must hand over your cash to try out the service, just like everybody else; that 'risk-free' part just means that if you're unhappy, you can get a refund under NordVPN's 30-day money-back guarantee.

This is at least a decent guarantee, though, with no sneaky small print clauses which mean that the policy doesn't apply if you've logged on 'too many' times, or transferred 'too much' data. Just use the service as much as you need to test it out, and if NordVPN doesn't work for you, cancel in the first 30 days and you'll get a full refund.

Does NordVPN offer a good level of privacy?

The privacy value of all VPNs starts with the support for encryption technologies.  NordVPN scores well here for its strong IKev2/IPsec support. This gets you AES-256-GCM for encryption, and supports perfect forward secrecy to regularly change keys (this time using 3072-bit Diffie-Hellman), ensuring that even if an attacker manages to penetrate one session, they'll be locked out of the next one. It's an excellent system which is now NordVPN's default for Mac and iOS, and is also available in some of the other clients (including Windows).

Once you're connected, NordVPN has other tricks it can employ to improve your privacy. These include Onion over VPN, which routes your traffic first through NordVPN's own network, then directs it over the Onion network and on to its final destination.

This double layer of obfuscation will slow the service down, but also makes it extremely difficult for anyone to trace an action back to you. Best of all, you don't have to know or understand anything at all about Onion to make this work. There's nothing to install or set up, just use your client to connect to one of NordVPN's specialist Onion over VPN routers and the system will handle everything automatically.

NordVPN also offers a Double VPN system where your traffic goes to one VPN server, then is re-encrypted and sent to a second NordVPN server, before heading off to its destination. This isn't going to be necessary, or even useful for most people, but it's there if you can find a reason to use it, and the technology doesn't slow you down as much as you might expect. A quick check on our review system showed download speeds of 70Mbps when not connected, 55Mbps when using the best Double VPN for us (UK to France).

How secure is NordVPN?

Impressively secure. NordVPN has something in its armory to further bolster your security, and that's a kill switch. A kill switch is in place to prevent any data leaks in case the VPN connection drops.

NordVPN stands out here for actually having two kill switches. A general internet kill switch blocks all net access when you're not connected to the VPN (this can be easily turned off if it's inconvenient), while an app kill switch kills your chosen applications if the connection goes down.

NordVPN says the service blocks DNS leaks, too, and our checks with DNS Leak Test, IPLeak and other sites confirmed this. Our DNS address was always the same as our IP address, with no DNS, WebRTC or other leaks detected. So overall, security and privacy are tight. (For more details on services that deliver top-notch security, check out our roundup of the most secure VPN providers, where NordVPN ranks highly).

Has NordVPN ever had its own security breached?
The less positive news is that a NordVPN server was hacked back in 2018, and this, plus the company's lack of transparency over the issue, have to be a concern. We see no evidence that there was any impact on customer privacy, though, and NordVPN has taken plenty of post-hack steps to try and restore confidence.

What did NordVPN do about the hack?
NordVPN invited security research group VerSprite to audit its apps, helping to identify and fix security issues. And a new bug bounty program was introduced, giving an incentive for anyone to uncover and report security problems with the service (check the latest reports here). Steps like these can't entirely make up for NordVPN's poor response to the 2018 hack, but they're still hugely positive, and expose the company's services to a level of scrutiny rarely seen anywhere else.

NordVPN Privacy

NordVPN doesn't keep any logs on its users (Image credit: NordVPN)

What is NordVPN's logging policy?

NordVPN claims to have a strict 'no logs' policy. Most VPNs say much the same, but the company's privacy policy defines this more clearly than most, saying:

'NordVPN guarantees a strict no-logs policy for NordVPN services, meaning that your activities ... are not monitored, recorded, logged, stored or passed to any third party. We do not store connection time stamps, session information, used bandwidth, traffic logs, IP addresses or other data ... Further, NordVPN have a strict no logs policy when it comes to seeing user activity online: NordVPN is based in Panama, which does not require data storage.'

That covers not only general logging of your internet activities, but also session logging details such as recording your incoming IP address when you connect to the service, and the IP you're allocated. (When other VPNs say 'no logging', they often carry out some form of session logging, so it's good to see NordVPN rule it out).

Can NordVPN back up these claims?
A VPN can say anything on its own website, but unlike most of the VPN competition, you don't have to take the NordVPN's claims on trust. In late 2018 NordVPN hired Price Waterhouse Cooper to run an independent audit on its infrastructure and services, and verify that its logging policy description is accurate. A November 2018 blog post confirmed that the company had passed.

The report doesn't have much in the way of technical detail. There are lots of legal restrictions on the content, too, and for instance we can't even quote from it. NordVPN customers and trial users can take a look, though, and we have to applaud the company for taking this step. It means NordVPN has far more evidence to support its no logging claims than most other VPN providers.

NordVPN TestMy.net

TechRadar uses a number of speed tests to evaluate the capabilities of each VPN we review  (Image credit: TestMy.net)

Performance testing: How fast is NordVPN?

While privacy features are normally the top priority for a VPN, performance is almost as important. Uncrackable encryption isn't nearly as appealing if it reduces your internet speeds to a crawl, which is why we put all our review VPNs through some intensive performance tests.

Our checks began in the UK by connecting to a sample set of 25 NordVPN servers spread around the world. In each case we were looking to confirm that the server was up and how long it took to connect, before running ping tests to check for latency issues, and using geolocation to confirm that the server was where NordVPN claimed it should be. None of these would give us specific information on download speeds, but they're all important factors in the experience of using NordVPN.

We had absolutely no connection failures, and were able to connect to even the most distant servers first time on two consecutive runs (that's a 100% success rate from 50 connection attempts).

OpenVPN connection times were good, too, at a typical 4-6 seconds. (Connection times were much longer when using the apps, unfortunately, but we'll talk more about that later.)

The positive news continued elsewhere, with minimal latencies, and every server appearing to be in its advertised location.

Our speed testing began by using Ookla's SpeedTest and TestMy.net to measure the performance of our nearest UK servers. The results were positive at an average 65-69Mbps on our test 75Mbps line, an acceptable 6-8% drop from our speed with the VPN turned off.

To check NordVPN's maximum performance, we ran the same tests from a US location using a 600Mbps line. The results were variable at 125-300Mbps, but that's better than many, and on balance, NordVPN seems speedy enough for most tasks.

We completed our performance tests by checking speeds from the UK to some of NordVPN's more distant servers.

Performance was inevitably more inconsistent, but still very reasonable at 30-60Mbps. There are some exceptions, though. Indonesia was so slow that not only were we unable to run the SpeedTest benchmark, we couldn't even properly load its website.

Still, while NordVPN isn't the speediest provider we've ever seen – there's a roundup of the fastest VPNs right here, if you're interested – it's better than most, and we got above-average speeds from the vast majority of its locations.

NordVPN for Netflix

NordVPN has no issues unblocking Netflix in the US, so you shouldn't see errors like this (Image credit: Netflix)

Can NordVPN unblock Netflix or other streaming sites?

The ability to access geoblocked websites is a key advantage of any VPN service. NordVPN doesn't explicitly claim to unblock any particular website or service, but statements asserting that it allows you to "keep access to your favorite websites and entertainment content, and forget about censorship" sound good to us.

The only way to really find out, then, is to test NordVPN's skills in this capacity, and we started our evaluation of its powers in this respect by attempting to access US-only YouTube content. This is a very easy test which just about every service passes, but we try it anyway to confirm a VPN is doing something useful. And sure enough, NordVPN is, with the site giving us full YouTube access on every one of our test servers.

BBC iPlayer is more difficult, as the service makes a real effort to block some proxies and VPNs. In the past we've had problems unblocking the service with NordVPN, and this review was no different, with the BBC detecting and blocking multiple servers. NordVPN's iPlayer troubleshooting page recommends using its browser extension as a last resort, though, and that solved the problem, finally allowing us to stream content.

It was a similar story with Amazon Prime Video, where the website recognized we were using a VPN whenever we connected via the regular client, but switching to NordVPN's browser extension got the site working.

Netflix is usually the biggest challenge, and many VPNs can't unblock it at all, but NordVPN had no issues, successfully allowing us in with every server we tried (and that was using both the Windows client and the browser extension).

While NordVPN didn't deliver the best unblocking performance we've witnessed, we were able to stream the content we needed eventually, so you can't knock it in that respect. (Check out the best Netflix VPNs if you're curious to see the top performers in this department).

Is help available from NordVPN if you can't unblock Netflix (or another service)?
It is indeed, and should you run into trouble with your unblocking attempts, NordVPN has a lot of assistance on offer. The 'How to use NordVPN to securely watch Netflix' support page has a host of useful tips, from recommended servers to simple browser tweaks (clear your cache) and reconfiguring your DNS.

If you can't access any particular site or content, it's worth checking out the knowledgebase and chatting with the support team to get some help.

NordVPN best VPN

NordVPN advertises itself as the 'Best VPN for P2P' (Image credit: NordVPN)

Does NordVPN support torrents?

The short answer is yes, it does. However, NordVPN doesn't shout about its torrent support (that isn't uncommon with VPNs, though). While NordVPN claims to be the 'Best VPN for P2P', the front page of the website no longer mentions its P2P status at all.

Torrents aren't supported on all servers, but the company doesn't restrict you to a couple of options in Amsterdam, either. NordVPN provides hundreds of P2P-friendly servers in the US, UK, and many other locations around the globe. Wherever you are, there should be a suitable server nearby.

VPNs which only support P2P on some servers can be inconvenient to use, particularly if you connect to a non-P2P server, launch your torrent client and find it doesn't work. But NordVPN is smarter than you might expect. A 'P2P' option in the apps gets you connected to the best P2P-friendly server for your location, without you having to know where this is. And even if you forget to do this, if the service detects P2P activity, it can automatically re-route your connection to a torrent-friendly alternative.

Is there anything else that makes NordVPN a good choice for torrenting?
Along with its direct P2P support, NordVPN has a number of other features which could make it a smart choice for those using torrents. There's its strict no logging policy, multiple layers of DNS and traffic leak protection, payment via Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and privacy extras including Double VPN and Onion Over VPN.

Are any rival VPNs better than NordVPN for torrents?
NordVPN clearly offers a strong all-round package in terms of torrents, but ExpressVPN is also worth considering for torrenting. The core features of both services are similar, and while ExpressVPN doesn't have quite as many extras (no Double VPN, for instance), it supports P2P on all its servers and is arguably easier to use. So you can make your choice based on which of those factors is more important to you, and there's further info to hand in our roundup of the best VPNs for torrents.

NordVPN Clients

NordVPN has clients for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and more (Image credit: NordVPN)

How easy is it to set up NordVPN apps?

Sign up for a VPN and you'll probably want to install a client and try it right away. Some providers make this more difficult than it needs to be, but NordVPN does a very good job of avoiding that.

Tap the VPN Apps link, and the NordVPN website automatically offers you the client download link for the device you're using, presenting you with further links for its other supported platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux and Android TV.

NordVPN's lengthy list of more than 50 tutorials explains how to manually set up the service, and includes coverage of a further 20 platforms and device types (including Chrome OS, Windows Phone, Raspberry Pi, routers, NAS devices, more).

There's far more detail here than you might expect. NordVPN has no less than 11 Windows tutorials, for instance, covering installing the regular client, OpenVPN, or manual setup guidance for various protocol types on Windows XP, 7, 8 and 10.

Or maybe you want to know how to set up NordVPN as a Socks 5 or browser proxy? No problem: there are tutorials covering Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, uTorrent, BitTorrent, Vuze, Skype, Deluge and more.

Is it all smooth sailing when it comes to setting up NordVPN?
Pretty much, yes – the only minor issue that crops up is if you're trying to download the appropriate OpenVPN configuration files. While many providers offer a single archive containing all the necessary OVPN files, NordVPN asks you to generate and download them, one by one. And even then, you're left to translate the rather cryptic file names (cr1.nordvpn.com.udp1194.ovpn, kr12.nordvpn.com.udp.ovpn) into something more meaningful.

This isn't exactly convenient, and most providers use much more straightforward file naming conventions (ExpressVPN uses names like 'my_expressvpn_usa_-_new_jersey_-_1_udp.ovpn'). Still, it's not a huge deal. If you use OpenVPN, you'll only have to figure this out once; if you don't – and many users, especially novices ones, will not – you won't even realize there's an issue.

NordVPN map

A map of available servers help you choose which location to connect to (Image credit: NordVPN)

How good is NordVPN's Windows client?

Installation is certainly a breeze, as we've already mentioned. NordVPN makes it quick and easy to install the Windows app. We visited the download page, it detected our platform, displayed the Windows download link, and we grabbed and installed the software in under a minute.

The client opens by displaying its many server locations on a map. This works much like any other dynamic map you've used – left-click, hold and drag to pan around, spin the mouse wheel to zoom, hover your mouse over a highlighted location to see a tooltip of its name – and left-clicking any location will connect you to the service.

While this looks good, it's not a very practical system. To access a specific European location, for instance, you'll have to pan to that area of the map, zoom in so that the location marker isn't overlapped by the others, and find your location amongst the others (not everyone will look at a caption-free map and immediately recognize which country is Slovakia, and which is Hungary, for instance). Your map location and zoom level are lost when you quit the app, too, so reboot your system and you'll need to start again.

NordVPN Locations

NordVPN even has specialty servers available for P2P (Image credit: NordVPN)

Fortunately, a left-hand sidebar displays a more standard alphabetically sorted list of countries. At its most basic, you can scroll to the country you need, click a button and connect to the best server in that location. Very easy.

Tap a More button and NordVPN displays a list of servers within that country, organized by city where possible, or a unique server ID ('United States #3678'). Alternatively, enter the name of any city in the search box, and if NordVPN has servers there, you'll see any matches.

NordVPN apps

You can choose servers for a particular task from the Speciality list in the app (Image credit: NordVPN)

In theory, the client should offer separate Specialty lists, where you can choose servers for a particular task: P2P access, using Onion over VPN, the double encryption of Double VPN, or giving you a dedicated IP. These work much the same as the regular list, so for example you can click P2P and allow the software to choose the fastest server for you, or browse the full set and choose something manually.

Except, well, it wasn't that simple for us. Our client wasn't displaying any of the Specialty servers. Why? The NordVPN support site explained that if these weren't visible, we should switch from OpenVPN UDP to the slower OpenVPN TCP. Uh, really?

We made the change, and the specialty servers appeared. That's good news, although hardly intuitive, and we're not keen on the idea that we must choose a slower protocol to access some features.

In previous reviews we've commented on slow connection times from the Windows client, but that's improved significantly. The 25-30 second connect times we noticed in the last review have plummeted to an average 15 seconds, still not exactly fast (some apps can connect via IKEv2 in a couple of seconds) but similar to many other VPNs.

Curiously, the mobile apps connected much faster than the Windows client during testing. We've no idea why, but if you're mostly using the VPN on mobile devices, this isn't an issue you're likely to see.

The client handles the rest of the connection process very well, updating the interface to display its status and the current location, and using Windows desktop notifications to tell you when the VPN is turned on or off.

Switching servers is easy, too. If you're connected already, you don't have to close that connection before you can open another. Just click any server and the client will automatically disconnect and reconnect to your choice.

Right click the NordVPN system tray icon and you'll see a list of your recent connections, making it easy to access them again. That's a real convenience which could mean you rarely need to open the full app.

NordVPN connection

It is now possible to pause your VPN connection for a short period of time (Image credit: NordVPN)

Tap the Disconnect button and you'll find new options to pause your connection for 5, 10 or 15 minutes. If you need to quickly use a website which doesn't work with the VPN, click 'Pause', choose your preferred interval, and the client then disconnects. When you're finished, hitting 'Resume' restores the VPN, but if you forget, the client reconnects automatically after your chosen period.

It's a small but welcome addition which should reduce the chance that you accidentally leave yourself unprotected for long periods.

NordVPN Windows settings

NordVPN has a number of useful settings (Image credit: NordVPN)

Elsewhere, an interesting Settings dialog has some unusual plus points. It doesn't just allow you to launch NordVPN on startup, for example.

You can also have the client automatically connect whenever you access an insecure wireless network, and it's possible to specify a particular country or region you'd like to use.

NordVPN's kill switch (a system to avoid data leaks if the VPN connection drops) also offers more control than most. An internet kill switch blocks all access to the internet unless you're connected to the VPN, while a separate app kill switch closes particular apps if the VPN drops (your torrent app, for instance).

We tried various ways of forcibly closing the VPN, but in all cases the client correctly blocked our internet traffic and warned us of the problem. The only small omission is that the client doesn't have an 'auto-reconnect' option, leaving users to restore their connections manually.

Protocol support is limited, at least with the Windows client. You can toggle between OpenVPN TCP and UDP only, and even that is hidden away in an Advanced Settings panel.

NordVPN DNS

You can set your preferred DNS for all VPN connections (Image credit: NordVPN)

By way of compensation, NordVPN provides the option to set your preferred DNS for all VPN connections. Most users should probably leave this alone, but if you know what you're doing, switching DNS could improve browsing performance, help block access to malicious websites, or impart other benefits. Even better, you can add multiple DNS servers and switch between them as and when required.

A bonus 'Obfuscated Servers' feature claims that it may help you connect even in countries and locations which block VPNs. And there's also the option to block ads and malicious websites via NordVPN's CyberSec, which is turned off by default.

Put it all together, and although NordVPN's Windows client has some issues, it's generally well-presented and easy to use. Once you're over any initial setup hassles, it's a comfortable place to view and control your VPN status. (Incidentally, you might also want to check out our pick of the best Windows 10 VPNs).

NordVPN android app

NordVPN's Android app is one of the most popular VPN apps on the Google Play Store (Image credit: Google)

How good is NordVPN's Android app?

The NordVPN Android app is one of the most popular around, with more than 10 million downloads, and a very impressive 4.4 rating on Google Play (even ExpressVPN 'only' manages 4.2).

While we never assume that app store ratings are accurate, we've also regularly seen VPN apps get 1-star reviews for no good reason, as users blame them for many other network and internet issues. To rate 4.4 is a real achievement, for sure, and NordVPN also ranks highly in our roundup of the best Android VPN apps.

Setup follows much the same route as any other service. Click Install, the app downloads, and you can launch it with a tap.

New NordVPN Android app

The mobile app has a similar interface to the desktop client (Image credit: NordVPN)

The app opens with the top part of the screen displaying your available locations on a world map, the lower part being reserved for a server list. You already know the basic operating principles here, as they're the same as any other map you've ever used: pinch to zoom in on the area with the location you need, drag to pan around, tap a location marker to connect to it. But it's just not very practical.

You might have to zoom in a long way to see the area you need. Do that on Europe, say, and you could be faced with 40 location markers but no text captions, so if you want to choose Macedonia, you'll need to know where it is on the map.

NordVPN locations

You can add locations to your favorites to connect even faster (Image credit: NordVPN)

And switching somewhere else in the world might require zooming out, panning around and zooming in somewhere else. While this isn't difficult, you're still spending more time navigating the app interface than is ideal.

Fortunately, and just like the Windows client, NordVPN's Android app also supports a conventional countries list. Swiping up gets you an alphabetical list of countries, and you can scroll down to the US (or anywhere else), tap it, and immediately get connected to the best server in that country.

If you need more control over your location choice, tapping a Menu button displays the full list of locations in that country.

You can expand locations to list all their individual servers, too, although as there's no server load or other information, this probably won't help you very much.

As usual with mobile VPN software, the Android app has fewer settings than its desktop cousins, but there's still a lot to like here.

This starts with decent ad, phishing and malware blocking via NordVPN's CyberSec. Furthermore, a smart auto-connect feature gives you all kinds of options. For example, you could set up the app to automatically connect on all Wi-Fi hotspots apart from your home and other trusted locations, ensuring you only turn on the VPN when you know you need it.

The app doesn't have its own kill switch interface, but simple instructions explain how you can set one up on your device (System Settings > NordVPN settings > Enable 'Always on VPN' and 'Block connections without VPN'), and that works for us.

Recent improvements include a new option to set a custom DNS server, and you can also use TCP to perhaps improve connection reliability.

The app isn't perfect, then, and we're not sure the map element of the interface adds a lot. But otherwise it's a likeable and capable application which outperforms most of the competition.

NordVPN iOS app

NordVPN's iOS app shares the same design and layout as its Android counterpart (Image credit: Apple)

How good is NordVPN's iOS app?

The NordVPN iOS app installed easily and with precisely zero surprises. Find it in the app store, install, open, log in and you're ready to go.

The app initially presents you with the same slightly awkward map interface as the other clients, although the iOS developer has done a marginally better job of implementing it. You can't zoom out as far as the Android app allows, which means the individual location markers are never left overlapping and hiding each other. And when the map is displayed, the lower panel reduces to just enough space for a Quick Connect button, leaving the maximum screen real-estate for map details.

We still think a map isn't the best way to switch between locations, and if you agree, swiping up displays the regular country list. Here you can connect to any country with a tap, or choose individual regions and servers if you prefer.

NordVPN ios app

This is the interface of NordVPN's iOS app (Image credit: NordVPN)

The Specialty Server list has improved since our last review, and now includes all the server types you'll see with the other apps; that's Double VPN, Obfuscated and Dedicated IP options, as well as P2P servers and any with support for Onion over VPN.

The app is far more configurable than most of the iOS competition. Along with the kill switch and the malicious website-blocking CyberSec, an auto-connect feature can automatically connect to the VPN on untrusted networks, only on Wi-Fi, or keep the VPN active all the time.

If that's not quite convenient enough, you're able to add NordVPN connections to Siri from within the app. As NordVPN points out, connecting is then as easy as 'asking Siri nicely.'

Elsewhere, a new Reset VPN Profile feature could help you restore broken settings and get you connected again.

NordVPN WireGuard

You can now elect to use NordVPN's WireGuard-based NordLynx with the iOS app (Image credit: NordVPN)

The highlight is probably the Protocols menu, where you're able to choose NordVPN's WireGuard-based NordLynx, as well as OpenVPN UDP or TCP, and IKEv2.

It's a small highlight, because right now NordVPN has so few servers with NordLynx that you're unlikely to have one near you. When we chose OpenVPN UDP, for instance, NordVPN allocated us servers also in the UK; when we chose NordLynx, we got servers in the Netherlands, Italy and more. The end result is our NordLynx connections were fractionally slower than we saw with OpenVPN.

That may not be the case if you have a local NordLynx server, though, and if nothing else, at least the app is ready for when NordVPN rolls out the technology everywhere.

Overall, NordVPN's iOS app is a significant plus for the service. If you're tired of other VPNs, where iOS users get the absolute bare minimum of features and functionality, give it a try; you might be pleasantly surprised (also check out these other great choices when it comes to the best iPhone VPNs).

NordVPN browser extensions

NordVPN makes it easy to connect right from your favorite browser with its extensions (Image credit: NordVPN)

Does NordVPN have browser extensions, and do these work well?

NordVPN does have browser extensions, and these can be pretty useful.

While VPN clients are generally easy to use anyway, getting yourself connected can still take a little work. If you need to unblock a website on your Windows laptop, for instance, you might have to click to display your system tray icons, click again to display the client, click the Countries tab, expand the full list of servers, click your preferred option, wait to see when you're connected, and finally Alt+Tab back to your browser.

NordVPN offers Chrome and Firefox proxy extensions which can simplify this process by allowing you to choose a VPN location, then connect and disconnect directly from the browser window.

Installing the Chrome extension added a NordVPN icon to our address bar. We tapped this and logged in to the service when prompted.

The extension interface doesn't have the map you'll see in the software clients, but that's no great loss. Instead you're presented with an auto-connect button which connects you to the fastest server, and a choose location option which enables selecting a particular country only. (This time there's no ability to choose a server by city name or number.)

A small Settings dialog allows you to block WebRTC leaks in Chrome, reducing privacy risks.

We checked out NordVPN's Firefox add-on, too. Sometimes VPN capabilities can vary between browser extensions, but not this time – NordVPN's Chrome and Firefox add-ons have identical interfaces and functionality.

Do NordVPN's browser extensions also block adverts on the web?
Yes, NordVPN has a CyberSec feature which can be enabled or disabled in the browser extension Settings. This has the ability to block not only adverts, but also malicious websites.

How do NordVPN's extensions compare to rivals?
Overall, this isn't as capable a setup as you'll see with some of the competition. ExpressVPN's browser extensions control and work with the full ExpressVPN client, so once you enable them within your browser, they protect your entire system. (ExpressVPN tops the rankings in our pick of the best browser extensions). The NordVPN extensions are simple proxies, and protect your browser alone.

Still, the proxy approach is perfect for simple website unblocking, connections are much faster, and using NordVPN within a browser could be useful in a few situations (if some of your apps don't work with a VPN, for instance, or the VPN hampers your system performance). We're happy that NordVPN offers browser extensions at all – most VPN providers don't – and overall, this is a plus point for the service.

NordVPN support

NordVPN's knowledgebase has many helpful articles (Image credit: NordVPN)

What customer support can you expect from NordVPN?

NordVPN's first line of customer support is its support website. Articles are sorted into multiple categories, and a search box allows you to find content by keyword.

The site organization is, well, less than intuitive. For example, head off to the ExpressVPN support site and installation guides are a click away. Here, you must go to the FAQ section, then click a Setup Tutorials link, then scroll through an apparently random list of platforms (Linux, Windows, Amazon Fire, iPhone...) to find the instructions you need. None of which makes much sense to us, as there's already an excellent Tutorials page where all NordVPN's setup guides are clearly listed and easy to find.

Once you get to the tutorials and guides, though, there's a lot to like here, with plenty of detailed but easy-to-follow setup and troubleshooting advice.

The company offers 24/7 live chat support, and in our experience this works very well. We posed a simple question and received a friendly opening response from a support agent within a couple of minutes.

Email support is available, too. Replies take a little longer – hours, rather than minutes, in our experience – but that's comparable with many other VPNs, and NordVPN responses were generally accurate and detailed enough to solve our problem.

What's the final verdict on NordVPN?

NordVPN is an appealing VPN provider with loads of servers and an excellent no-logging audit. It's not the cheapest, or the fastest, or the most powerful VPN we've seen, but overall, it's a likeable service which will deliver good results for most users.

  • Also check out the best VPN services of 2020

NordVPN FAQ

Here are some answers to other questions you may have about NordVPN, or indeed VPNs in general.

What is a VPN and how does it work?

A VPN or Virtual Private Network is a secure way to connect to the internet. A VPN gives you software that you can install on your devices, providing a ‘tunnel’ to send your data down in encrypted form, therefore making that data traffic more secure, and giving you a higher level of privacy online. See here for more details on how a VPN works – and remember that it delivers more than just security and anonymity, but can also let you access geoblocked content via servers in different countries, and more besides.

How does NordVPN itself work; can you provide further details?

We do exactly that in our sneak peek inside a NordVPN server, which reveals in-depth info regarding security, logging, and much more.

What are the key things to know about NordVPN?

The company has 5,441 servers across 59 countries, and you can connect up to six devices to NordVPN simultaneously. It has software clients for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux and Android TV.

How do I know if my VPN is on and working properly?

There are some easy ways to check this, as outlined in the above video from NordVPN itself.

Does NordVPN slow down your internet connection?

Using any VPN, including NordVPN, may slow down your internet connection a little, as there is inevitably some overhead to encrypting your data and sending it through a VPN tunnel. Sometimes, the difference is pretty negligible though. As we found in our latest performance tests, NordVPN resulted in a drop of performance of between 6-8%, which is acceptable and around average for a VPN provider. The likelihood is you won't even notice this with most everyday tasks you're carrying out online.

Will NordVPN drain my laptop or phone battery?

NordVPN is an application which is being run by your hardware, so by definition it will use some system resources, and in turn, those resources will have an impact on the battery life of a portable device. While there have been some anecdotal reports in the past about NordVPN being a bit of a battery hog, those were from some time back, and it should be no more intensive than any other VPN app.

How good is NordVPN for online gaming?

A VPN isn't really designed for gamers, mainly because the likelihood is that it'll decrease performance, snaffling a little of your bandwidth – as we saw in our NordVPN performance tests – and potentially adding a bit of latency (although how much latency can vary widely, depending on where the VPN server and game server are respectively located).

If you're serious about games, and particularly if you're playing the likes of shooters where twitch reactions are required, the added latency will be a real sticking point. That said, for other games, and more casual players, if the proverbial internet winds are blowing in the right direction, and server locations are favorable, you may not notice much difference at all.

A VPN still won't particularly help you when gaming, although it could potentially better protect you from the (admittedly fairly unlikely) prospect of being hit by DDoS attacks, and you might be able to access gaming content in regions that are otherwise unavailable to you.

Does NordVPN work in China or other countries with internet censorship?

NordVPN recently published an explainer video on internet censorship, and furthermore the company claims its service can indeed function in China. You may simply be able to use one of the NordVPN apps to connect to any server when in China, or for potentially better results, use the firm's Obfuscated Servers feature. For more details on that, check out this blog post (and you might want to have a quick watch of the above video).

If something goes wrong, how do I contact NordVPN customer support?

All you need to do is consult our full guide which covers all the different ways you can get support from NordVPN.

Does TechRadar have any help resources for NordVPN users?

We do indeed: we have guides for installing NordVPN on Windows, and for installing the Android app.

Can you try NordVPN for free?

Sort of – there's no free trial as such, as we mention in the review above, but there is a no-strings-attached money-back guarantee. If you sign up to a NordVPN subscription plan, and don’t like the service, you can cancel at any point within the first 30-days and you’ll get your money back. 

What is NordLocker?

It's NordVPN's app which allows you to create a secure locker on your device to store sensitive files which are protected by encryption. This is sold separately to the VPN service, and you might want to read our review of NordLocker.

What is NordPass?

Like NordLocker, this is another separate app, except as the name suggests, NordPass is a password manager (and online form filler). Again, you can see how good it is by perusing our NordPass review.

Can NordVPN be hacked?

Theoretically, any online service can be hacked – even a security-focused one like a VPN (given enough persistence from the attacker, resources, and the fact that potential vulnerabilities can seemingly spring from nowhere).

Of course, NordVPN actually was hacked as we mentioned in the review above, although the VPN has since shored up its defenses considerably as we also discussed.

Are there any further details available about that hacking incident?

Following the server hack that NordVPN suffered in 2018, we sent the firm a list of questions which were answered candidly.

1. "Evidence of the breach first appeared on March 5th, 2018, but we were unaware of it at that time. Further evidence suggests that this is around when the breach is likely to have occurred." What is the 'further evidence' that March 5th 'is around when the breach is likely to have occurred', and how can you conclude, even on the balance of probabilities, that there wasn't an earlier breach? Do you have an estimate of how many customers used the affected server?

NordVPN: March 5th was the last day when such configuration file existed. Later our configuration was changed, so the config file would have looked differently. And the server itself was built on January 31st. We believe that the discussion on 8chan was the cause for someone to start looking for vulnerabilities of different VPN service providers, and that discussion started on March 5th. We don’t know the exact time of the event, and we can’t tell how many people were connected to that server as we don’t keep any logs. We can only guess: our raw estimate is something around 20 to 70 active sessions. 

2. "The breach was made possible by poor configuration on a third-party datacenter’s part that we were never notified of." What was this 'poor configuration'?

There was an undisclosed IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) account left to access the server. That account was breached, and therefore the server was accessed. 

3. "There are no signs that the intruder attempted to monitor user traffic in any way." That signs would you expect to find? If the intruder did monitor user traffic, what would they have been able to see?

There were no changes made to our configuration, no additional processes running, no additional files left on the server. Such configurational changes were necessary to inspect the traffic. In theory, after running certain commands, a third party could have seen the real-time activity, which would look like traffic observed by a regular ISP. That means traffic traveling between the server and a bunch of different websites.

4. "The incident effectively showed that the affected server did not contain any user activity logs." How did the incident show that?

If any user-data had been kept on a server, it would have very likely been downloaded and provided to the public. However, assumptions aside, configuration file downloaded from one of the competitors’ servers displays real-time sessions and some user information, while our configuration file does not. 

5. "The intruder did find and acquire a TLS key that has already expired." When did the key expire? (The sentence as written suggests only that it's expired now, but I'm wondering if the author meant 'had already expired' by the date of the attack.)

The TLS key expired on 10/7/2018. However, the TLS key can not be used to decrypt the traffic. 

6. "We then immediately launched a thorough internal audit of our entire infrastructure. We had to ensure that no other server could possibly be exploited this way." What did this audit uncover? For example, how many other servers had remote management systems installed?

We have audited more than 4000 of our servers. Most of our servers had a remote management system installed. However, the system itself is not an issue if it is patched and unavailable for public access (from the internet). We found few servers that could have potentially be at risk and either patched them or removed them.

7. "...we raised our standards even further for current and future datacenter partners to ensure that no similar breaches could ever happen again." What can you tell us about these standards?

We made sure that no datacenters we use have unpatched or undisclosed IPMI access. Each new server built is encrypted, so no readable data can be accessed even if a server is accessed without authorization through a remote management system. Also, we have a lot of plans to improve our security.